It’s more bad news for President Barack Obama with the release of our latest Reuters/Ipsos national poll today. The headline number is that, for the first time since he took office, more Americans now disapprove of his performance than approve. After a long period where his approval rating was stable at just over 50 percent, the last three months have seen a steady deterioration, matching the economy’s faltering performance.
Just like Ronald Reagan in 1982, Obama’s mid-term poll ratings are suffering from the economy’s woes. Faith in Obama’s ability to tackle the crisis was a key factor that swung the presidential race his way in 2008, but his performance on the economy is fast becoming his Achilles heel in the face of a concerted Republican assault. As Ipsos pollster Cliff Young told us, many voters had long been giving Obama the benefit of the doubt, but now patience has “basically vanished.”
Last month’s Reuters/Ipsos poll found Obama’s approval rating for his economic leadership was lower — and was deteriorating faster — than on any other issue. This month’s poll gives some more clues as to why this is the case. Unemployment and government spending topped voters’ economic concerns, with 72 percent and 67 percent of respondents saying they were very worried over those issues respectively.
Republicans have been trying to convince voters that last year’s deficit-financed economic stimulus was not effective in reducing unemployment and ending the recession, and this argument may be striking home.
Nor are voters that keen on the administration’s plans to let the Bush tax cuts expire for the highest earners. Some 49 percent said they would prefer tax rates to be maintained for everyone, while 46 percent said they favored letting the tax cuts expire for some or all Americans. Not surprisingly, it seems like Americans want the deficit tackled through lower spending rather than through higher taxes.
There is also a widespread feeling Washington no longer works. Although Republicans get more of the blame for this, that feeling would be dangerous for the Democrats if they are perceived by voters as the party of big spending and big government.